Gilbert v. Stewart

The New Jersey Supreme Court issued a cautionary tale for attorneys in its review of this professional malpractice action. The plaintiff — a probation officer — and her ex-husband hired the defendant to represent them in several municipal court matters. The municipal court cases resulted from a series of tickets the ex-husband accumulated on the family car. Since the vehicle was registered in the plaintiff’s name, based on the defendant-attorney’s advice, she pled guilty to the charges. Later, her employer demoted her for failing to bring the matters to its attention promptly. During an ethics proceeding, the defendant admitted to violating the Rules of Professional Conduct by representing the plaintiff and her ex-husband in the matters. The plaintiff sued the defendant, claiming that his deficient performance caused her demotion at work. The Law Division and Appellate Division ruled that the plaintiff’s failure to promptly notify her employer of the issues led to her demotion and granted summary judgment for the defendant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a reasonable jury could determine that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s harm.

Gilbert